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Poker Hand Evaluation

Below we've collected some interesting poker hands presented to the PokerJunkie editorial team. They gave their input on how the hand was played and how they would have played it.

If you're just starting out in poker, talking through poker hands with players more experienced than you is essential to improving your game. There's no better training for the beginner or average poker player then to see what other poker players would do in certain hand scenarios.

  • Rule 1 of Poker: Keep Learning From Your Mistakes
  • Rule 2: Never Talk About Rule 1!

Poker Hand Evaluations

pokerfield

Post-Flop Dilemma Gone Wrong

I was playing a multi-table SNG and this was late in the tournament, only 7 players left. I was in the small blind with an AJ offsuit and I had the second-largest stack of chips at the table.

Preflop there was one raise and everyone folded except a player to my right and myself. On the flop we got AJ9 giving me top two pair. The player to my right, who happened to be the chip leader, checked with about $8,900. I raised to $1,800. He paused for about 40 seconds then went all in. I called the all in.

He showed K 10 giving him nothing on the flop but opportunity for a straight. On the turn a Q came out completing his straight and I was gone. Did I play this wrong?

Thanks
hart8k

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Dear hart8k

Thanks for writing to us. There are two answers to your question: one before the cards were turned up, and one after.

When the Cards are Known

Once the decision was made and the opponent shows his cards, you're obviously way ahead. If you run the hand in a poker odds calculator you're an 82% favorite to win the hand when the chips go into the middle.

Do you want to get all your money into the pot against the chip leader with an 82% chance of doubling up and 7 players left in the tournament? I'd think so. I'd definitely think so. I don't think anybody is good enough to pass on those kinds of opportunities in poker.

Before the Cards are Shown

On the other hand, before you know his cards the decision is not that easy. Being check-raised all in by the chip leader is never a comfortable spot to be in.

What could he have? A pair of nines, of course; AA and JJ being less likely because two of each are already used up. If he has 99, your odds are inverted and you're down to 17%.

On the other hand, would he think for 40 seconds if he flopped a set? Depending on how much lower your stack is than his, maybe. And depending on what he thinks your preflop call in the small blind means, maybe.

Straight draws with QT and T8 are possible, of course, and it's not impossible that he raised preflop with those hands on the button when he was first to act. Of course, your opponent may be playing a strong ace like AK or AQ, or maybe even AT. A9 is a possibility and maybe lower aces, depending on his style of play.

Here it's important to keep in mind that there are 8 ways for the opponent to have AK, 8 ways to have AQ, 6 ways to have A9, 3 ways to have 99, etc. Also, we must not forget that he knows you're being challenged for your tournament life and he can certainly count on a certain amount of fold equity on your part.

He may put you on a bluff, or maybe may he thinks you're making a feeler bet with a hand like 88 or KJ, which you would be likely to fold against his all-in. These aspects increase your equity and indicates a call.

So What's the Bottom Line?

As it does so often in poker, it all boils down to how you evaluate your opponent's game. Personally, I would definitely call his all-in with my top two pair here. After his long consideration, I'd think that he thinks that I'm not very strong.

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What To Do With an Overpair on a Paired Board

Hi Junkies,

I was playing short handed no-limit holdem against a loose and aggressive player who was raising constantly and I finally picked up QQ on the big blind.

He raised to $21 from the button, I re-raised to $99 and he called. The flop came 8h-Ts-Th. I bet $99 and he re-raised to $188. I thought for a while and then pushed all-in. He quickly called showing AA and I lost a big pot.

How would you have played the hand? Would be thankful for your thoughts on the matter.

/Miss Lee

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Hi Miss Lee,

That's a very interesting hand you've sent us. Let's take a closer look.

I like your re-raise on the big blind; you have a strong hand well worth a re-raise against a loose aggressive player. When he calls, that doesn't give you much information. If he is a loose player he will call with a lot of hands here.

This is a decent flop for your queens. If you had the best hand pre-flop there is a good chance that you still do. Your main concern is that your opponent called with something like AT or JT.

I would say that your bet of about half the pot is decent here but you could maybe have bet a bit more to protect your hand against possible draws. So far, so good. I have no objections of your play until this stage. But the mini-raise changes the whole setting.

What does the mini-raise mean here? It can be an attempt to steal the pot if you missed with your AK, but not likely. A thing that is important to remember is that your opponent has more information about your hand than you have about his at this stage.

Your re-raise preflop usually narrow down your possible holdings. But the call of a loose player pre-flop doesn't. I would say that the average player only re-raises with hands like high pocket pairs and AK from the blinds - especially against loose players that usually calls.

If your opponent makes the same assessment, his min-raise is pretty disturbing. My read is that he wants you to call here because he believes his hand to be the best. Meaning that he has either slow played something like AA or KK pre-flop or managed to hit a ten.

A fold here would be weak, but if you call you basically pot commit yourself (with your opponent in position). So I would say that you should either go all-in (as you did) or fold, depending on how you read the situation. It comes down to what hands you think your opponent will min-raise with here.

Assuming your opponent's got a decent read on your holding (after your re-raise pre-flop) I would say that you should fold. Because it's unlikely that he will pull a bluff here, at least by making a min raise (you said he was aggressive). But this is always easy to say afterwards (when you can see the cards) and I don't think your all-in on the flop is that bad. As I said, it would be my second choice after folding.

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Is It Correct to Fold Aces Preflop?

I was in a tournament recently where the top three places were paid. The blinds were 1,000-2,000, there were four players left and I had about 21,000 chips. The other three players all had around 80,000 chips. I was in the big blind and found AA in the hole!

The player UTG, who was the chip leader, went all-in and both the button and the small blind called. I thought for a while and threw away my AA because I had the chance to move up two spots instead of risking getting knocked out in fourth place.

What would you have done?

/Jesse J

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Hi Jesse

Yes, this is the classic situation in a tournament where it's often said that you could correctly fold AA pre flop.

Still, let's take a closer look. You're choosing between an almost certain money finish and risking it all for a shot at first place. The correct decision probably depends on how much you value the prize money.

If third and second prize are life-changing money, say $1 million or so, it's probably correct to fold. With that much money within reach it would be just devastating to go home empty-handed.

On the other hand, if this is a sit-and-go (which the prize structure might indicate,) third prize would typically be twice the buy-in; that is, no big deal. (Given that you don't play way over your budget.)

If you call and win the pot, you'll probably have a certain second place and sit with 80K against another player with 180K. You have a decent but not huge chance at winning the whole thing. Call and lose and it's all over.

If you fold, you'll most likely play with 20,000 against one player with 240,000, still with second place guaranteed. Your chances of winning first prize are much smaller. To maximize my expectation, or my long-term results, I think I would have chosen to call here given that the prize was not very important to me.

Cheers,

Lobster, Team PokerJunkie

See an example calculation of this situation!

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aaron jacks

Which Poker Hand Wins?!

Hi there,

There are three fours and two threes on the table. There are only two players left, one has a three and a six, and the other has an ace and a queen. Who wins?

Player 1: 6-3
Player 2: A-Q
Board: 4-4-4-3-3

Jose

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Hi Jose,

Wow, what a board! Yes, sometimes it's tricky to figure out who wins the hand. What you need to remember is that each player can use 5 cards and 5 cards only when they put together their five-card poker hand.

In this particular case you should also remember that when you compare two full houses, the one with the "best three-of-a-kind" wins.

Comparing Two Full Houses

For example, 4-4-4-3-3 beats 4-4-3-3-3. Actually, 4-4-4-3-3 would even beat K-K-3-3-3, since three fours beat three threes.

So, in your example, what are the best five-card hands that the two players can put together?

Figure Out Their Best Five-Card Hands

Well, the guy with A-Q is obviously "playing the board." His best possible hand is 4-4-4-3-3. If he wants to use the ace, for example, his best hand would be a three-of-a-kind: 4-4-4-A-Q.

The guy with 6-3 has two ways to build a full house, either 4-4-4-3-3 or 4-4-3-3-3 by using the three from his hand. But, as we saw above, 4-4-4-3-3 is the better of these two poker hands.

Conclusion

To conclude, both players use all five board cards in their five-card hand. As a consequence they both have exactly the same hand and they split the pot equally between them. The rest of the cards have no influence at all.

I wonder in what order the board cards might have come out for both guys to stay in the hand until the showdown. Probably 4-3-3/4/4?

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Flush Draw All-In Against My Better Hand

Hi, I was playing a re-buy tournament and was eliminated early on (didn't want to rebuy). Ok so a low stack goes all in with A9 suited. I raise it with AK since I am in early position and want to push other players out.

The BB calls with KT suited (same suit as the all in from low stack). This move already puzzles me. In my opinion BB with KT suited against a re-raise pre-flop is a pretty bad move already.

The flop shows J65 with two cards of the suit that BB needs and he pushes all in right away. From observing his playing style earlier I don't think he hit a pair on the flop. So I call. At this stage I should be around 65/35% ahead if not more. The turn gives him the flush.

I don't think I should have folded my AK to him on the flop but am just wondering what you guys think about this.

/Mydral

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Hi Mydral,

It's hard to give any final evaluation without knowing your chip stacks. Since it's a rebuy, if you're pretty short stacked, his pre-flop call could be explainable. Your raise doesn't mean that much if your stack is on the short side. If both your stacks are deep his call is very questionable, of course.

On the flop, as you say, he's got around 35% against you and if he's getting 2:1 pot odds, it would make his move easily correct. Of course, if the short stack holds two cards in the same suit, his winning chances are much smaller, but at the time he doesn't know this.

Should you fold your two overcards against his all-in? Again this depends on our stacks. How much would you have left if you fold, and how big are the blinds? Without this information I'd say that your call is probably okay. It can't be very wrong.

Tommy Angelo said a smart thing in his book Elements of Poker: The marginal situations are the ones we discuss the most. At the same time those are the ones where our decision matter the least. Since the situation is marginal, the expectations of different decisions are close, per definition.

Bluff you later,
Lobster
The Poker Junkie Team

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tournaments

Flopping the Nut Straight Early in a Tournament

Hi!

This hand is from a Holdem tournament at work last week. It was like the poker moment of the year in our company and most of us were really keen on winning. There wasn't much drinking going on and the whole ambiance breathed concentration and competition.

The hand in question came early in the tournament with blinds still at 25/50. We had started with 10,000 in chips and not much had happened yet.

In early position I picked up As-Tc. A player before me put in a raise. He has a reputation as a rock but I know he has developed his game quite a bit since he got that label. I called along with a feeling of being behind, mostly because we were playing with deep stacks and I would have position on him throughout the hand. An unknown player (new colleague) to my left came along as well.

The flop came KQJ with two spades; I had flopped the nut straight! As an added feature the initial raiser bet right into me with a pot-sized bet.

Here comes the point in the hand that I want to discuss. For two different reasons I didn't want to play the hand too fast. I was afraid that I would either scare off the opposition and win a small pot with my miracle flop, or get company, build a monster pot and then run into big problems if the board were to flush or pair.

I opted to flat call the pot bet, somewhere hoping that the third guy would come over the top of me so I could move in and either win a decent pot right there or at least be all in with the nuts. Instead he just called as well. As the evening went along I would put him up as a very loose-passive player, but I didn't know that yet. The pot was now at 2,000.

The turn brought a third spade. There was the dreaded bad news for my straight, but I still had the ace of spades for a redraw so I wouldn't go away easily. Now the initial raiser checked and I checked along with the intention of calling any not-too-large bet. The third man bet 500, a really nice and small bet which both the former rock and I called. Pot at 3,500.

The river was a blank and the initial raiser checked again. Should I check as well? After so much weakness I was afraid that the third player would jam the pot regardless of his cards and I didn't want to call down like 3,000 with a puny straight. I chose to put in a blocking bet of 500, mimicking the third guy's move from last street and hoping that no one would have the heart to re-pop without the nuts (I had the ace.)

The other two players called, I showed my straight and they both folded. I won a 5,000-chip pot, which is pretty big on Level 1. Everything turned out for the best but I'm not sure of my play on the flop. Do you think I should have played the nut straight more aggressively? (Maybe the river play can be questioned as well?)

Sorry for the long question! I just think it was an interesting hand, and I would like to hear your views on it.

Tallyho,

Larry

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Hi Larry,

Thanks for your question. That's a very fascinating hand you are describing. With a dream flop like that you have two concerns:

  • Get paid as much as possible and
  • Avoid getting drawn out

Slow Playing Might Bring Trouble

If it had been a rainbow flop I definitely think that you should slow play the hand, but with two spades on the board things get a bit more complicated. The problem if a third spade hits is that you might loose (obviously), but also that the action will slow down.

With a raise on the flop you might scare some players off but KQJ is a real-action flop that several players might have a piece of (and many players won't lay down a two pair, or even AK, if you raise here.) Also (as you pointed out), its not only the flush that you worry about, a paired board might put you in an even harder spot.

Raise to Protect Your Hand or Get Paid

I think a raise is in order here. You want to make your opponents pay to draw out on you and also build the pot with the best hand. If they fold - so be it. It's better than to be outdrawn, especially in a tournament where every lost chip is worth more than each that you win.

So when your opponent bets out pot here, I think a raise of 2/3 of the pot to pot size is in order. (My guess is that his pot bet is about 600 chips, so you could raise to about 1,800 - 2,400. Putting about a fourth of your stack on the table.)

You could raise it up even more, to try to pot commit your opponent(s), but the chances that they fold will also increase. And if you do and get called, you'll have to go the whole way with your hand no matter what. What you really hope for is somebody putting in a re-raise, but if your opponents are decent it's not very likely on this flop.

You don't mind the original raiser to call you while the opponent behind is more trouble because of his position advantage (another reason to put in a raise.)

The Turn

If the turn card is a blank, you can definitely go all-in (there will be at least 5,000 in the pot and you'll have 7,500 left at the most). If the flush card hits or the board pairs it's a different story. But if you've got the second opponent to fold you'll at least have the position advantage. If you raised more than the pot on the flop you'll have a sure all-in, especially with a re-draw to the nut flush.

What Actually Happened

Let's look at how the actual hand played out. When the third flush card hits on the turn I think you make the correct decision to just call the 500 with your straight and nut flush re-draw. I am not sure about your stop bet on the river, it both have positive and negative effects. The other solution would be to try to induce a bluff and check call. Because there is a large risk that a stop bet won't work against a player holding a flush (even though it's not the nut flush).

By checking you might make get the player behind to make a final stab at the pot and if you are lucky the other opponent will call. The downside to this is that you might be forced to make a much tougher decision if the player in last position puts in a substantial bet (like you said). And you might be forced to pay off someone with a flush. (But you'll have a pretty tough decision if your stop bet gets raised also.)

Conclusion

Your dream flop can prove to be quite dangerous and it's a good idea to try to protect your hand. You also want to get as much in on the flop, before a scare card might cool of the action or force you to make very tough decisions. If you play the hand hard on the flop you force your opponents to make the tough decisions instead.

Sorry about the long answer. ;-) But as you said - it's an interesting hand.

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Showing When the Flush Card Hits

Hi Poker Junkies!

I played an interesting hand of PLO:

Pot Limit Omaha, $1/$2, six-handed
My stack: $173
My hand: Ah Kh Jh 2c
My position: cutoff
 
Pre flop:
I raise the pot, the button re-raises pot, I call. Pot size: $45
 
Flop: Ad Qd Th
I bet the pot, button calls. Pot size: $135
 
Turn: Jd
I move all in with $107.

What do you think of my shove on the turn? Would you consider folding here?

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Hi Cheeta,

Thanks for your question. The situation you describe is very interesting and a common one in Omaha.

You flop the nuts, bet it hard and a scare card hits on the next street. Someone has said that flopping the Broadway straight in Omaha is mostly trouble - which the hand in question proves. Let's take a closer look.

Your opponent 3-bets pre-flop in position and you call with your half-decent hand (at least for short-handed games). The flop hits you perfectly but is at the same time very intimidating.

You've flopped the Broadway straight - the nuts! But this is still a very scary flop and (most importantly) you lack good re-draws.

On a flop like this you have to be cautious, especially if the stacks are deep. You want to protect your hand but at the same time avoid getting all your chips in against an opponent with the same hand that is freerolling on your chip stack with a re-draw.

If your opponent has the straight, but also a set, two-pair or a flush draw (which is not that unlikely on a board like this), then you're in big trouble. But when your pot bet only gets called you can be pretty sure that you hold the best hand (if your opponent is cautious he could also be holding the same straight).

So let us analyze what range of hands he could be holding here. We don't have any info about what type of player he is so we'll assume that he's neither very loose nor super tight, but something in-between. You raise from the cut-off preflop, which is a very common move in short-handed PLO. So a decent opponent could three-bet with a pretty wide range of hands if he believes you're trying to steal the pot. But the cold call on the flop narrows it down quite a bit.

As far as I am concerned there are only three types of hands that a decent player would call the flop with here. Either he holds the same straight without re-draws (but are scared that you do), or he has a set or a flush-draw.

With this range I like the fact that you go all-in on the turn. Sure the Jd that completes the flush is a scary card, but not enough reason to shut down. The hand is heads up and as we've seen there's still a good chance that you have the best hand. So if you've decided to stay in the hand you should definitely bet here.

This has two positive effects:

  • You don't give your opponent a free card and a possibility to draw out on you if he holds a set and you can get him to fold if he hold the same straight as you.
  • You run the risk of putting all your money in against a flush but you're not completely dead with the re-draw to a full house that you've picked up.

To sum it up, I think it is correct to shove in this situation with less than a pot bet left. It's possible to argue for a fold here but we have to remember that we're playing short-handed PLO and if you folded here every time you would be giving up to much.

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chips

The Nuts in Omaha with Dangerous Draws?

Hi!

I play Pot-Limit Omaha on low stakes. Four or more players see the flop all the time and so do I. In this hand I hit the nut straight on the turn, but with three opponents, a flush draw on the board and a lot of action, I still hesitate to call all in.

What do you guys think about this situation?

/Kurt

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Hi Kurt,

Thanks for an interesting question. The situation you describe is very common in Omaha. You hit the nuts on a board with dangerous draws out. Let's take a closer look at the hand.

We have a four way pot with a raise a call and a re-raise when the action comes to you. You have the nut straight and can be pretty sure that at least one of your opponents have the same straight. You can also be almost certain you will have a four way all-in if you decide to play. The player in the first position is already all-in, the second player is pot committed and the third one has showed that he's not going to fold.

This means that you need to dodge a flush draw and possible full houses in order to probably get a split. But you also have a re-draw to a better straight, if a ten comes that's not a spade.

You will need to pay $23 with the chance to win a total of $10 (already in the pot) + $7 (Player B) + $16 (Player C) + $23 (Player E) + $23 (you) = $79. The most likely is that you have at least one other player with the same straight. Meaning that you pay $23 to make a total profit of $79/2 - $23 = $17. Off course you don't have the time to do this math when the clock is ticking, but it is good to have some grasp at the figures when we analyze the hand.

Looking only at these figures you should probably fold here. There are nine cards that will give a possible flush and 12 cards that will create a full house (but some of these cards are most likely in the hands of your opponents). This means that you maybe have 40-50% chance to win maybe half of the pot.

But there are other factors to consider. It is very unlikely that all players have the straight, which means that you have the chance to win a side pot even if one of the draws hit. You also have three outs that give you a chance to scoop the whole pot.

With all this taken in to consideration I would argue that you should go all-in here. But if you were in the same situation on the flop or if the stacks were much deeper I would argue for a fold.

Good luck at the tables.

/Team Poker Junkie

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